People who want to live in New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing's long-awaited Siler Yard affordable housing project for artists will be able to apply for a spot early next year. The nonprofit hosted an informational webinar on Wednesday afternoon about how to do so and plans a second info session Dec. 9.
Daniel Werwath, the organization's executive director, tells SFR it will release the actual application in December and begin accepting filled applications in January. Units should be available by fall next year.
Right now, Werwath is mostly concerned about getting the word out to the right people to make the project as accessible as possible to members of Santa Fe's working class in most desperate need for affordable housing.
Besides being affordable, the project is specifically designed for artists or people with an established creative practice. It will include live-work spaces and community spaces as well as shared access to art-making tools and resources.
Werwath wants the inhabitants of Siler Yard to accurately reflect Santa Fe's low-income population while serving the city's creative community, but not everyone who fits the bill might realize they are eligible or self-identify as artists.
"We're trying to design a process that treats artists as a very broad concept because what we really want is to make sure that those live-work units go to people who need live-work units," he says. "Many of the people I would consider artists don't necessarily consider themselves artists, and we're really trying to overcome that."
Under federal fair housing law, the group is allowed to use "artist preference" to screen applicants who are also income qualified for affordable housing. The law also gives preference to families and veterans. Eligible applicants must be New Mexico residents.
Werwath says applicants will be asked to self-identify as artists with an established creative practice, but they don't have to earn money from their practice. What counts as art will be broadly defined to include crafts, skilled trades and many forms of creative form of expression, whether or not they fit into that traditional definition of art.
New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing is working with local community groups such as Adelante and Alas de Agua to spread the word among Santa Fe's predominantly Spanish speaking communities on the Southside. Werwath says they are working to provide application assistance to those who need it, and that recordings of both application webinars will be available with Spanish translation.
"Where these projects have fallen down in other communities is that the residents don't look like the low-income communities in which they are built because they end up being whiter and higher income," he says. "We want to make sure that we have the community support and social capital to make this project genuinely inclusive."
The Siler Yard project was first proposed in 2012. Partly, says Werwath, it was conceived in response to the increased need for affordable housing caused by the 2008 financial crisis that left many creative people in Santa Fe struggling to make ends meet. It is somewhat ironic and perhaps also appropriate that the vision will finally come to fruition in the midst of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
In 2016, the City of Santa Fe donated 5 acres to the project, and in 2019 Siler Yard was awarded $10.5 million in federal low income housing tax credits. Construction began this year.
Werwath says the housing should become available by September 2021, and he hopes all the units will be complete and occupied by the end of October next year.